This #MakeADifferenceDay, considering the wellbeing of our young people leads me to ask questions about how we can make a difference to them.
In the 1960s, the ending of national service raised concerns about juvenile delinquency, creating a boom in authority-run youth centres. But, half a century on, we are faced with the collapse, and possible loss, of youth services in the UK. Not only have we seen a loss of almost 4,000 youth worker jobs and the closure of around 600 youth centres since 2010, due to funding cuts of £387 million, the dangers to our youth are made clear in a number of studies:
“Social isolation raises social anxiety and depression in young people. Young people are not being empowered to engage in the community and are becoming withdrawn from society.” (1)
“The cuts will cause increased poverty, more disengagement and crime, higher rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, obesity, higher youth unemployment, and the marginalisation of young people by society.” (2)
As a charity with the health and wellbeing of young people at its heart, we are increasingly concerned with the continuous loss of services for young people. But we are also extremely encouraged by the work and passion of our Esteem network of educators, and other youth workers and volunteers we have connections with, whose mission it is to benefit young people within our area of expertise – relationships and sex education.
The voluntary sector has always worked alongside local authorities in youth services. With the ongoing cuts to youth provision still raging around those youth hubs and services still remaining, it is more important than ever that youth providers in all their wonderful variety collaborate and partner with one another to withstand, survive, and thrive through the economic and political turbulence now and in the future. Encouraging, supporting, and learning from one another – exchanging information on best practice and expertise; sharing resources and ideas, will help to combat the prediction that the quality of youth work will suffer.
Both UNISON and Ofsted (3) present evidence that the health and wellbeing of young people is greatly enhanced by building up relationships of trust and support. Youth workers and volunteers in all settings play key roles in the lives of our young people, and need the continuous support, advice, and training from various agencies to continue equipping them to do this extremely important work of helping young people “find employment, get qualifications, avoid drug or alcohol abuse, remain healthy, and play their part in society.” (4)
At acet UK, we believe our work in relationships and sex education is a core part of this. We, and the youth practitioners we train, support and equip, impact young people’s self-esteem; they way they treat others; their capacity to form healthy relationships; and their ability to look after their emotional and sexual health. If you are interested in joining us in this work, click here to find out about our training.
This #MakeADifferenceDay, how can you make a difference to the young people in your area? There are so many youth groups out there (church-run youth clubs, Scouting, Wildlife Watch, sports teams to name just a few) which are, in the large part, run by amazing volunteers. Volunteers who are always on the lookout for like-minded individuals to help them provide places for young people to get together, socialise, learn, grow, and make a difference in their community.
Joanna, acet UK team member and mum to a teenage son